Mike Trout is about to become the ninth #2 hitter with 100 RBI

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Mike Trout is having another MVP-caliber season and a litany of statistics will tell you that. RBI is somewhere around 15th on the list of statistics that illustrate just how good Trout has been. Trout’s league-leading total of 100 (98 of which have come as a #2 hitter) does provide some historical context, however.

As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, only eight #2 hitters (including Alex Rodriguez twice) have reached triple digits in RBI. Here’s the list, via Baseball Reference:

Player G Year
Aaron Hill 158 2009
Jay Bell 144 1999
Edgardo Alfonzo 146 1999
Alex Rodriguez 145 1998
Alex Rodriguez 123 1996
Ryne Sandberg 153 1990
Dwight Evans 153 1984
Robin Yount 138 1982
Eddie Mathews 145 1959
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2014.

It makes sense why this doesn’t happen more often: #2 hitters rarely have Trout’s power. Often, they’re high-contact hitters and bunt at a higher rate than anyone else aside from the pitcher in the National League. Even Angels manager Mike Scioscia admits Trout is an atypical #2 hitter. From Gonzalez’s column:

“There’s no doubt this guy’s a multidimensional player. He’s not just a table-setter. I think eventually when he settles into the middle of the lineup and he has [teammates] on-base in front of him, he’ll have the potential to knock in 120 runs.”

Along with the 100 rib-eyes, Trout has a .285/.369/.549 slash line with 31 home runs and 14 stolen bases. While he won’t have to contend with Miguel Cabrera for the AL MVP award this time around, the field is relatively more wide open, as Victor Martinez and Jose Abreu have each put up fantastic numbers themselves. Depending on one’s trust in defensive metrics, Alex Gordon and Josh Donaldson will draw some support as well, among others.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.